Since bursting onto the scene in 2013 with his debut album It Goes Like This, Thomas Rhett has established himself as one of the leading male artists in Country music. He’s notched up an incredible 9 number one singles and his 2015 album Tangled Up was certified Platinum in the US. His third album Life Changes arrived earlier this year and it became his first to top the charts. He’s one of the few artists in Country music that has managed to experience crossover success too with all of his singles charting on the Billboard Hot 100. Last night he kicked off the UK and Ireland leg of his Home Team Tour at London’s Roundhouse.
Rhett’s popularity in the UK has been on the rise since his first visit, when he performed on the main stage at C2C: Country to Country in 2016. He followed that show-stopping performance with a headline tour later that year and the Home Team Tour marks his third visit to this side of the pond. Last night marked his biggest headline London show to date with over 3,000 people in attendance. Rhett opened his set around 9.30pm with Crash and Burn, one of his many number ones. The arrangement was different than the album version giving it more of an EDM feel and it caught the audience a little off-guard.
That song moved into the raucous South Side, which allowed Rhett to really work the stage and interact with the audience. It was obvious that he’s been taking some performance tips from Bruno Mars (he even mashed up Mars’ That’s What I Like with his own hit Unforgettable later in the set) as Rhett and his band danced in unison and worked the stage as a group throughout the set. Set list wise, the night was geared towards the hits and all of the crowd-pleasers you’d hope to hear were in the mix from It Goes Like This all the way through to current single Unforgettable.
The only point I thought the set faltered was with a redundant cover of Garth Brook’s Friends in Low Places. That song has been done to death and is often covered in the sets of Country music stars. Given the controversy around Brooks’ miming at the CMAs this week, I perhaps would have chosen to leave that one out.
Over the course of his set Rhett showcased the wide-ranging influences on his music effortlessly jumping between genres. The funky feel of Make Me Wanna was a stark contrast to acoustic ballad Sixteen but somehow it all worked together. The party anthem Vacation saw Rhett running along the front of the audience and of course Die a Happy Man was the sing-a-long moment of the night.
Craving You, sans Maren Morris of course, was a highlight in the set and proof that Rhett has his eye on more mainstream success during the next stage of his career. Another stirring moment was Grave, the closing track from Life Changes, where Rhett’s voice really shined.
Rhett closed his set with T-Shirt, much to the appreciation of a group of fans I was seated near who kept bellowing for it throughout the night. It was an uptempo way to finish a high-energy set.
As a showman Rhett has plenty of energy. He raced around the stage all night, broke out into dance moves and wiggled his way from one side of the stage to the other. His vocals were on point all night and he sounds as good as he does on record. His music translates well to a live setting and the mix of tempos and styles made for a very interesting and enjoyable night.
Based on the evidence of last night, Rhett has a real chance of breaking into the mainstream UK market. While he’s Country at heart, his music is increasingly edging more on the pop side, meaning that he could find himself entering the UK Top 40 with the right single choices. He’s a charismatic and entertaining performer and I’m fairly sure on his next visit, he’ll be performing at an even bigger venue.
Set list: 1. Crash and Burn 2. South Side 3. Get Me Some Of That 4. Grave 5. Craving You 6. Star of the Show 7. Friends in Low Places (Garth Brooks cover) 8. Life Changes 9. Make Me Wanna 10. Sixteen 11. Marry Me 12. Vacation 13. It Goes Like This 14. Die a Happy Man 15. Unforgettable/That’s What I Like (Bruno Mars cover) 16. T-Shirt Performance date: 10th November 2017